Ganas: Staten Island hippie: I forgive

But shot guru sez he kicked mad attacker

A Staten Island commune leader shot by an obsessed stalker preached peace and love yesterday toward his alleged attacker – even as it was revealed he got in one swift kick at her.

“I really don’t carry any grudge against her. I’m sure they’ll catch her,” Jeff Gross, 51, told the Daily News in a bedside interview from St. Vincent’s Hospital Staten Island.

“I’m not mad at her. What good is that going to do me? How can you be mad at someone who is mentally ill?” Gross added.

Gross, a co-founder of the New Brighton commune Ganas, told friends he managed to kick snaggletoothed Rebekah Johnson in the leg as he crumpled to the ground late Monday.

Police were hunting for the 43-year-old Johnson yesterday as it was revealed she apparently had practiced target shooting – and created a Web site devoted to bashing Gross.

Bitter at being bounced from the commune more than 10 years ago, Johnson opened fire with an unlicensed .380-caliber handgun, striking Gross in the stomach, neck, leg and arm outside the commune, the wounded man said.

“She didn’t say anything. I pleaded with her when she started shooting,” he said. “I yelled at her, ‘Please, stop!’ But she didn’t.

“How does someone like her get her hands on a gun?”

Cops found several practice target silhouettes in her apartment in a housing development near the commune – and the outlines were pockmarked with what police believe are bullet holes, sources said.

“She’s always been a strange one,” said neighbor Janice Johnson, 42, no relation to the suspect.

“She keeps to herself. She walks around with a big backpack on her back all the time,” the neighbor added.

Commune members were afraid she would come gunning for them, although police sources said they had found no “hit list” and believed Johnson’s decade-long wrath was focused solely on Gross.

The 100 or so Ganas members, who prefer to call their commune a “cooperative,” said Johnson’s charges of free love, sex assaults, aggressive lesbians and venereal disease were a madwoman’s ravings.

“There’s no sharing of wives or husbands – it would be a lot more interesting if it were,” one Ganas member said. “It is a lot more boring than people think.”

But Johnson believed otherwise. Her hate-filled Web site – full of ambush photos of Gross – rails that the mild-mannered Ganas co-founder is a “rapist” who idolizes Charles Manson and O.J. Simpson.

“Jeff Gross is a hyperaggressive, manipulative, violent misogynist,” railed Johnson, the daughter of a well-to-do Presbyterian minister from Virginia.

“I think she convinced herself it’s true,” Gross said yesterday after visiting with his mother and sister, who traveled from Colorado to see him. He said he always knew Johnson was unbalanced, he just never thought she would turn violent.

Johnson, who lived on and off again at the commune in the 1980s and 1990s, sued Gross and group members in 1999, but later dropped the action.

In the suit, she claimed she was the victim of sex harassment, unwelcome lesbian advances and abuse by Gross.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Ellen Oppenheim, a member of Ganas and a dwarf who was named in Johnson’s rambling lawsuit. “I’d really rather not talk about it.”

Johnson charged that Oppenheim, who worked with Gross and decided where members would sleep, steered pretty girls his way while sending the homely ones “to sleep with the midgets.”

Gross took out a restraining order against Johnson in 2004. She was arrested on a harassment rap later that year, but the charge was dropped in early 2005.

“She tried to destroy my reputation. It got worse and worse. She called me a rapist and a murderer,” Gross said. “She carried it as far as she carried it.”


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
New York Daily News, USA
June 1, 2006
Maureen Sauberg, Jonathan Lemire, Oren Yaniv and Alison Gendar, Daily News Writers

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday June 1, 2006.
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